International Organisational Learning, Knowledge and Capabilities Conference 2019 at the University of Sussex, UK 

Thematic track 1 -

Learnings from unintended and unexpected outcomes of innovation

Bramming, P., Brandi, U., Elkjaer, B., and Nickelsen, N.C.M.

(Aarhus University, Danish School of Education)

Unintended and unexpected, absurd or even senseless outcomes of innovation efforts may not only be seen as unwanted but also to contain potentials for organizational learning (Elkjaer & Nickelsen, 2016). Yet, how are we to better understand and model the unintended and unexpected outcome of innovation within a framework that often look for linearity, control and routines?


We understand ‘innovation’ in its widest form, which includes interventions and restructurings (Hasse & Brandi, 2012). One example is Dahler’s (2018) study on innovation implementation of wash toilets for the elderly in Denmark. It appeared that many of the elderly did not know why they had the toilet and how to use it. The use of the new toilet resulted in ‘absurd’ new practices i.e. ‘to dance on the beam’ as a way of operating the toilet. Another example is the accreditation practices of higher education, which has resulted in appointment of new groups of personnel at universities, which may be bemoaned or seen as new learning opportunities between administrative and scientific staff members (Elkjaer, 2017). The examples demonstrate that technologically or politically driven innovations may provide new learning potentials for e.g. elderly care or universities when understood in the context of other categories than instrumentality, rules and standards. New routines are invitations to ‘tinker’ (Mol, Moser, & Pols, 2015) and to open up for new collaboration practices.


In this track, we invite empirical and theoretical papers that explore the tensions resulting from unintended and unexpected outcomes of innovation as potential organizational learning opportunities.





Dahler, A. M. (2018). Velfærdsteknologi, autonomi og aldrende kroppe – vasketoilettet som case [Welfare technologies, autonomy and aging bodies - the wash toilet as a case]. (PhD), University of Southern Denmark, Odense.

Elkjaer, B. (2017). Knowledge production as organisational learning: The case of Danish universities. In Holford, Jarvis, Milana, Waller, & Webb (Eds.), Palgrave International Handbook on Adult and Lifelong Education and Learning. London: Palgrave.

Elkjaer, B., & Nickelsen, N. C. M. (2016). Intervention as Workplace Learning. Journal of Workplace Learning, 28(5), 266 - 279.

Hasse, C., & Brandi, U. (2012). Employee driven innovation : from spontaneous idea generation to new collective practices. In S. Høyrup, C. Hasse, K. Møller, M. Horst, & M. Bonnafous (Eds.), Employeedriven innovation: a new approach (pp. 127-149). New York: Macmillan Publishers.

Mol, A., Moser, I., & Pols, J. (Eds.). (2015). Care in practice: On tinkering in clinics, homes and farms. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag